Time to End the Failed War on Drugs and Replace it with a Sane and Humanistic Policy

Congratulations to President Barack Obama for decisively winning reelection.

The Republican War Against Women and their right to reproductive freedom was an insult to women and the men who love and care about them. Let this be a warning to the Republicans: Abandon all hope if you continue to consort with the right wing fringe that cannot abide the idea of an unshackled female free to make her own decisions without male approval.

And now let’s take a look at Washington and Colorado where voters passed laws legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana. I fully support those voter decisions, but I want to go several steps farther to once and for all end the failed War on Drugs and legalize and tax the sale of all drugs.

The results in Washington and Colorado raise an important legal issue; namely, what will happen given the federal prohibition on the sale and distribution of marijuana?

We have seen the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) close down medical marijuana dispensaries in California ignoring state law that legalized the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Can we expect the same reaction by the DEA in Washington and Colorado?

Regrettably, the answer appears to be “Yes.” The federal government and the individual state governments are separate sovereigns under out constitutional form of government. Due to the Supremacy Clause, the federal government’s sovereign authority over matters concerning drugs reigns supreme over and preempts state sovereign authority. Thus, state laws that conflict with federal laws concerning drugs must yield to federal law.

The Supremacy Clause is set forth in Article VI of the United States Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

As the Chief Executive of the United States who no longer has to worry about running for reelection in the future, President Obama has the authority to order the DEA without fear of political reprisal to cease and desist from enforcing federal laws regarding marijuana.

Our nation faces many problems today and one of the biggest is the failed War on Drugs. We have the highest rate of incarceration per 100,000 people in the world (730) and more than half of the people incarcerated today are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, particularly offenses involving the possession and distribution of marijuana.

Laws criminalizing the possession or distribution of marijuana and other drugs have not reduced drug use. Instead, they have created a lucrative black market, armed gangs engaging in narco-terrorism and vast criminal financial empires. Colombia, Mexico and Honduras are awash in blood from warfare between rival drug gangs and the federal police endangering the health and safety of the people and destabilizing their governments. Forty years of unremitting failure is enough.

President Obama’s reelection presents him with an opportunity to end the drug war and replace it with a first step toward a sane and humanistic policy as Portugal has done.

The drug policy of Portugal was put in place in 2000, to be legally effective from July 2001. The new law maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use without authorization. However, the offense was changed from a criminal one, with prison a possible punishment, to an administrative one if the amount possessed was no more than ten days’ supply of that substance.

The present piecemeal state-by-state approach keeps turning up the heat on the federal government to end the war and replace it with a sane policy, and now it’s time for President Obama to take a strong stand for legalization.

47 Responses to Time to End the Failed War on Drugs and Replace it with a Sane and Humanistic Policy

  1. Kyma says:

    The mass incarceration rate of African American men is completely connected to the war on drugs and accomplishes two thing: Voter Suppression and wealth from to law enforcement and prisons.

    The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
    Texas Tough – Robert Perkison

  2. Pooh says:

    “As the Chief Executive of the United States who no longer has to worry about running for reelection in the future, President Obama has the authority to order the DEA without fear of political reprisal to cease and desist from enforcing federal laws regarding marijuana.”

    Obama has the power to change the federal classification that makes marijuana illegal. He chooses not to use it and instead to defend not changing the classification.

    2011 “ … a coalition of marijuana advocacy groups has filed a lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to push the Obama administration to respond to a nine-year-old petition to have marijuana rescheduled under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). According to the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), the federal government has violated the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to respond to the petition within a reasonable amount of time.”

    http://www.naturalnews.com/032546_marijuana_Obama.html

    October 2012 — Obama administration goes to court to defend the Schedule I placement of marijuana.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/15/long-pending-lawsuit-could-open-floodgates-for-medical-marijuana-research/

    Obama accused of lying about power to change marijuana classification.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/obama-medical-marijuana_n_1457301.html

  3. Xena says:

    The Rascals wrote and recorded this song in response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and dedicated it to his brother Ted. I’m thinking it was around 1965. 54smartypants presents a video that starts then and ends in 2011. Funny how the song still applies today.

  4. CherokeeNative says:

    Wow, thanks for the stroll down memory lane – I feel like a teen again. Popping in to say I am proud to be an American today – we re-elected O’Bama and in my state legalized Marijuana and Gay Marriage…. I am proud. Woot woot

  5. Finally, Imagine by John Lennon

    • Xena says:

      (Xena, rapping)
      Don’t stop
      Wait a minute
      Let me put some Xena in it.

      The 60’s will not be complete without the group that psychedelic-cized other songs. After being a fan of these guys in the late 60’s, I finally met them in person several years ago at a summer fest and had them autograph my vinyls of their music.

    • Jun says:

      This is one of my favourite Hippy songs

      This is a good new band that has the hippy flava

  6. CCW with Have you Ever Seen the Rain:

  7. How ’bout a cool down with The Eagles performing Hotel California

  8. How about Eric Burdon and the Animals in We Gotta Get Out of This Place:

    Eric Burdon is 71 and will be releasing his newest album on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

  9. This song woke me up together with more than a casual interest in Grace Slick.

  10. Who can forget The Trashmen who changed rock and roll forever in a little over two minutes in 1963 with Surfin Bird.

  11. Wild thing, you make my heart sing.

    You make everything groovy.

  12. moatsad says:

    imprisoning a drug user , whether weed or harder drugs , does nothing at all to help them and cost taxpayers many times what it would take to get them real help. concentrate on stopping the violent offenders , whether related to drugs or other.

  13. Xena says:

    About legalizing marijuana — I cannot understand why something grown in dirt and not changed from its natural composition is classified a “drug.” In my late teens, I had friends who smoked weed, took Darvons, stuff like that. They acted crazy and did stupid things. Snooty person that I am, I had too much vanity to experiment with anything that would make me appear unladylike. 🙂

    Becoming an adult with responsibility, I departed from friends who smoked weed. Going into employment law, it bothered me that companies would not hire applicants testing positive for marijuana. My reason for that was because I had never known a person smoking weed to be undependable, neither steal to purchase weed.

  14. grahase says:

    ps — Just an observation having followed the election process — you all need to change that system. Waiting in long lines is not something most like to do, I am sure.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      We desperately need both system reform – some sort of multi-party parliamentary system – as well as voting reforms in the US. On the West coast, most states have early vote by mail, so no long lines here unless people prefer to go to the physical polls.

    • Xena says:

      I waited about 10 minutes outside in the rain before the line moved inside. (Put up my hoodie.) For me, it was worth it and much shorter than the wait of women and minorities to receive the right to vote in America.

      When I tried to early vote, I was told that the place only allowed early voting for people residing outside the city limits and there was another place I was to go. That was out of my way, so it was because of my own decision that I didn’t early vote.

  15. grahase says:

    Way to go President Obama and the Democrats of the United States of America. Congratulations – a tough job – well done.

  16. grahase says:

    I personally agree – marijuana should be legalized. What a way for a government to create more jobs, earn more taxes, and ensure citizens are provided a quality product. I think consumers would rather buy from a legal regulated source than buy from a stranger in a back lane, risking fines or imprisonment and not knowing what else may have been added to the product. Knowing this, the back lane sale tied to gangs and other opportunists and cartels in foreign countries benefitting. The marijuana plant is not just for smoking. This creates a whole new industry for Americans. In Manitoba, Canada and most other Provinces, the sale of alcohol is run by the Provincial government. Liquor sales are only legal via a Liquor Commission. I think the same could be done with marijuana. I really do not see a downside.

    My mother and I have had discussion over this issue for many years. She was born in the 1930s and her opinions originate with propaganda like the 1937 film – Reefer Madness. She would NEVER vote for legalization because she believes marijuana leads to harder drugs. Little does she know that her 4 children smoke marijuana and none of us have been tempted to use anything extreme. So, I think it will take many years to gain approval through the voting process. An accelerant to the legalization would be for the legal states to prove the profitability and other benefits.

  17. Jun says:

    I dont know about hard drugs. Perhaps it can be used in specific facilities and there is treatment for hard drug use. Marijuana 100% it being completely legal

  18. aussie says:

    Prohibition was the single biggest cause of organised crime, which has since spread into every other facet of life.

    With the serious drugs, the big cartels are multimillionaire, well able to influence political outcomes in several countries. It suits them to keep drugs illegal in the US, as that keeps the prices higher (and the taxes at zero). Not so much maybe for marijuana, as everyone can grow his own.

    It suits the for-profit prison owners or course. It suits the DEA as it keeps them in well-paid interesting work.

    It suits a lot of local law enforcement because a marijuana possession charge is the fastest easiest simplest way of railroading anyone they don’t like the look of.

    It suits a lot of the bigotted members of society, too, as sending someone to prison for a tiny possession, real or faked, makes them a felon for life – harder to get work, harder to get accommodation, impossible to vote … in other words it is the easiest way to keep the lower classes DOWN THERE where they belong. And self-righteously claim it has nothing to do with your bigotry, it’s all “their doing” possessing the stuff in the first place.

    I’m in Australia, where the first settlers were convicts — often convicted of major crimes like stealing a loaf of bread. We have learned; we fine people a hundred bucks for possession, not jail them. The US seems in a lot of ways stuck in the past, not sure the year, 1950’s or 1850’s, maybe even earlier than that.

    At least in Prohibition they went after the suppliers; they didn’t hound the little people who just wanted one drink.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Our earliest settlers, of course, were religious (not so religious that they could see indigenous people as different but equal, though), hence the difference here in the US. People are at least beginning to see the light in regards to intoxicants and the law, though.

  19. Two sides to a story says:

    I’ve railed for years against the waste and ineffectiveness of the “war on drugs” and the rise of the for-profit prison systems. And the death penalty, and automatically deporting / or incarcerating illegals w/o taking into consideration their circumstances.

    However, although I understand the constitutional issues between state and Federal gov’t, I still don’t grasp why Federal policy on marijuana has not been changed despite the states grappling to change it. Why the rift between the two? What can we do about it? I support organizations who are pushing change in drug policy, but what else needs to happen?

    • leander22 says:

      My question in this context or strictly an addition to your list, would be, what would happen to a young boy, like the one I once met on a greyhound in California, who when I asked what he had in the bag, he carefully held on his lap, he reached into it and offered me a handful of marijuana, if he had done this with the wrong person and got caught three times with his yearly harvested bag. Would he be incarcerated for 25 years under the three strikes law?

      He told me, he had found a place were he could raise a plant and then harvest it in autumn, when I met him. He didn’t have the money and besides he said, he didn’t like the criminal circles that offered it to him.

      • gblock says:

        Under the California three strikes law, no, I don’t think he would. This law applies if the first two “strikes” are “serious or violent” felonies. Under a modification of this law approved in yesterday’s election, the 3rd strike would usually have to be a “serious or violent” felony also.

      • leander22 says:

        Thanks gblock, I am released. Was a nice guy. But after I met him, I wondered if he wasn’t somehow too friendly and careless.

        I once stumbled across a publication by one member of a group of left-leaning German police officers. He is for legalization too, his basic argument is that it uses up too much valid police time. He studied the topic carefully and his statistics are pretty clear. They hardly ever manage to get hold of the larger distribution networks. All they catch are small users and minor dealers.

        I’ve been interested in this topic since I read a study by a psychologist whom I met, who studied the use of marijuana versus alcohol in the German military. I have to admit that it would be my favorite recreational drug, but as the boy, I don’t like the distribution structures, and never looked for them.

  20. Malisha says:

    Worse than the war “on drugs” is the fact that it is really a war on people, even where it is allegedly not taking place. The War on Drugs is actually an industry.

    Complete with war crimes, of course.

    Look at this:

    http://jonathanturley.org/2012/07/05/long-beach-officers-shown-walking-on-employee-and-then-destroying-video-system-of-pot-dispensary-before-smashing-up-store/

    • Two sides to a story says:

      One problem in Cali is that some dispensaries are not properly registering themselves and paying state sales taxes. These are the ones more likely to be abused / shut down.

      Another problem is that marijuana is not legal in Cali – medicinial marijuana is legal. But it’s easy for anyone to get a certificate for medical marijuana, something the anti-drug folks don’t like one bit. It would be so much better if Cali would go to full-blown legal marijuana. This would end many of the problems set up by the medical marijuana only prohibition.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        PS – Would help also if people selling marijuana would follow the current rules. It’s not that big a deal to register as a legal state dispensary. I do understand the rebellion, though, but we really don’t need people making and marketing their own moonshine / wine / etc. without restriction, either.

  21. I’ve been silently following your articles on the Zimmerman case, as well as comments from students and other interested people. Very helpful information!

    And today I’m surprised and delighted to read your endorsement of Obama’s victory and your call for a sane end to the American drug wars. Your facts and arguments are right on. I’d add that our disastrous war in Afghanistan (where a family member had to fight) might have been averted or at least curtailed if the Taliban weren’t supported by the illegal drug trade — much of it American dollars. It’s prohibition that makes drug cartels so profitable.

    As a Californian (though not a drug user), I cringed when the feds came in and busted legal (under California law) medicinal pot venders. It’s so destructive in so many ways to criminalize use or sale of medicinal pot here — and I’m pleased that Wash. and Colorado have extended legal status to recreational use. I’ll be following this closely, and doing all I can to promote legalizing (and regulating) all drugs.

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